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Open houses give look at private schools

As families prepare to enjoy the activities of spring, many parents like having school plans in place for fall.

Many private schools already have held open houses so parents could check out facilities, talk with staff and consider options. However, it isn't too late to visit a potential school.

School officials are happy to schedule appointments.

"Call anytime for a private tour of the whole facility or a specific grade," said Anne Davis, principal of St. Agnes School.

Open house at St. Agnes, 4801 Staunton Ave. in Kanawha City, was held Jan. 31 during Catholic Schools Week. The school enrolls 122 students in preschool through grade five, and about  40 percent of the student body is Catholic.

Tuition is about $4,000 for Catholic families and $5,000 for others with options available for paying on a monthly basis. Books are not included in tuition.

The economy has had little impact on enrollment, Davis said.

Davis said parents are opting for private, faith-based education because they feel their children are secure in a loving environment with small classrooms.

For more information, go to the website or call 304-925-4341.

Sacred Heart Grade School in downtown Charleston held open house Jan. 29 with fifth graders serving as ambassadors and teachers of all grade levels on hand to meet visitors.

However, Principal Terri Maier is always happy to schedule private tours to meet families and show off the school.

"I do tours year-round," she said. "Most people who come for the open house come a second time and some bring their child near the end of the year so they don't fret over the summer. I enjoy those personal times with families."

While the open house provides a "snapshot" of the school, private tours offer a picture of the facility while students and teachers are in the classrooms.

Sacred Heart enrolls more than 400 students of various faiths in preschool through fifth grade. Tuition for a year runs about $5,100. Books and fees would run about $270 more.

Maier said parents are willing to invest in a private, faith-based education for many reasons. While the school is Catholic, students learn about many faiths through religion classes that encourage discussion. Prayer is included daily. Students attend mass each Friday and hear messages that may be applied to daily life.

For more information go to or call 304-346-5491.

Bible Center School, 1111 Oakhurst Drive in Charleston, held open house on Jan. 24.

However, school officials welcome families to visit on an ongoing basis.

"Hardly a day goes by that we don't take people on tour," said Lee Walker, executive pastor of Bible Center Church.

The school, located at 1111 Oakhurst Drive, now enrolls about 400 students in preschool through eighth grade. About 420 students are expected to be enrolled this fall with openings still available at some grade levels. Tuition for next school year will be $4,584, including books.

Preschool is paid weekly with the current fee $155 for five days.

Families choose a faith-based, private education for various reasons, Walker said.

"Parents with a strong Christian conviction are attracted to our school," he said.

The school has a low student/teacher ratio so that individualized attention is possible, Walker said. Spanish is taught to students in preschool through eighth grade. All students have music, art and physical education. Middle school students participate in sports.    

Walker notes that parents also look at safety when choosing a school. While Bible Center has safety measures in place, a task force is looking into additional security measures.

For more information go to or call 304-346-0431.

Teays Valley Christian School has an enrollment of about 360 in grades kindergarten through 12, said vice principal Jody Sowards. Tuition fees vary. For example, tuition for grades kindergarten through five is $3,959 for a year. For grades six through eight, cost is $4,072. Tuition for grades nine through 12 is $4,116. Books and fees are extra. Discounts are offered for families with additional children.

An open house is scheduled at the beginning of each school year. Families are always welcome to make appointments to tour the facility, meet the faculty and have any questions answered, he said.

The school's Web site at has an abundance of information as well as an online tour of the building. For more information or to schedule a tour, call the school at 304-757-9550.

Elk Valley Christian School, 58 Mount Pleasant Drive in Elkview, will hold its open house 6:30 p.m. March 26. The event is an opportunity to tour the building, meet the faculty, see a textbook display, and hear about the school, said Principal Scott Lilly.

However, private tours can be scheduled at any time.

 The school now enrolls 153 students in preschool through 12th grade. Tuition is $3,580 a year with family discounts available for extra children. Books and fees are extra.

A building project in the works will be completed as funds become available. The exterior shell is complete for a new building that will house additional classrooms, library, cafeteria and offices.

Lilly said parents are choosing private, faith-based schools for many reasons. Among these are a Christian philosophy, strong academics, and small classrooms. Another factor is that bullying is not tolerated.

"We deal with it directly if it happens and it is very rare," Lilly said.

He said the school has a family atmosphere, dedicated teachers, and a good sports program, especially for the girls who have soared in basketball and volleyball.

For more information, go to or call 304-965-7063.

Contact writer Charlotte Ferrell Smith at or 304-348-1246.



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